Every February in Canberra, the wild blackberries start to ripen. Every year in the months leading up to February, I anxiously scan my favourite blackberry patches hoping that this won't be the year that the government finally decides to poison them. We lost a few good patches this year and yes do I know they are a noxious pest, but they are also such a delicious one.
Last weekend was our first blackberrying trip for 2012 and it appears that this year will be one that we will talk about for years to come. There are not only an extraordinary number of berries (with plenty still red or green, so there will be picking for weeks to come) but the berries that have ripened are particularly large and juicy.
They are of course wild berries, so they are not the size of ones you would buy in the shops, but they are full of flavour and of course are free! I estimate S and I picked in the vicinity of 5kg, with only some fairly mangled hands as payment.
Our haul is being put to good use. The best berries have been frozen for the months to come. Almost a kilo has been made into sorbet. We have two large glass bottles full, shortly to become blackberry vodka and there is another large container in the fridge yet to be be assigned to a delicious treat.
If you are new to blackberrying, here are a few tips:
- Only pick from healthy looking plants. If it seems to be dying, it has probably been poisoned. The ACT Government has a list on the TAMS website of places that are being sprayed, check your local government site or better still find a friend with a farm!
- Wear long pants and long sleeves of clothes that you don't mind being pulled by thorns and stained with blackberry. juice.
- Wear good sturdy shoes - you are tramping in the bush in summer, there are plenty of spiders, you are stepping on blackberry canes and there is always the possibility of snakes.
- Be prepared for scratches - my hands look appalling right now
- If you are freezing them, freeze them in a single layer on a tray, then transfer them to a bag. That way you end up with a bag of individual berries rather than a giant clump frozen together.